The Road to Restoration

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The Road to Restoration
by Jan Pierce

Luke 3: 4-6 “As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight. Every ravine shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough roads smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” 

We believers are aware of the need to “fill the valleys and level the hills” for those who have never heard the Gospel. They may not understand God’s ways or the depth of their sin. They don’t grasp their need of a Savior. But how do we deal with long-time Christians who fall into sin?

They know better.

I’d been saved for over twenty years and my husband was a pastor. I taught Sunday School and women’s groups. I’d studied the Bible forward and backward for many years. I knew heartsickness-428103_640about sin and the wiles of the enemy.

I knew better.

But even though I knew, over the course of several months I allowed a relationship with another church leader to go beyond the bounds of friendship. I moved into a secretive and “romantic” relationship with a man not my husband. And though the relationship never became sexual, my heart was divided.

We’d been friends for years, enjoyed social times as couples, gone on leadership retreats, worked side by side to build a church. We’d even lived with the family for a time while we were in the process of buying a home. We were friends. We loved their children and they loved ours.

I sinned.

Once the relationship became common knowledge we were required to go before the church and confess. We were not allowed to speak to one another again. He lost his leadership position and moved away. I lost my good reputation.

Although all of this took place over twenty years ago, some of the lessons learned are as nature-669592_640fresh today as they were then. I learned first-hand about ways to minister to those caught in the web of sin. I learned what helps and what doesn’t.

My Father God sent Jesus to die for my sins. He wanted me restored to Him. And I was. But as I look back on that time I realize we Christians often don’t know how to love someone back on their feet. We mess it up.

From My Perspective:

  • Though I’d behaved in sinful ways I was shocked at my own behavior.
  • I didn’t expect anyone to overlook my sin or condone it.
  • I was numb both in mind and spirit—it felt as if I had watched another person’s behaviors.
  • Long lists of scriptures handed to me by well-meaning believers were not helpful.
  • Notes and letters of condemnation and shame broke me further.
  • At the most horrible time of my life most friends and acquaintances had no idea how to help. They disappeared.

Over many months and years I received my healing. I traced the roots of my unhealthy need for approval that led to attention seeking. I came to understand some of the “ministry” I received had not been at all helpful, though well-intentioned.

How can we do better? How can we help to “make the crooked straight and the rough roads smooth?”  These are the actions and behaviors that brought healing and eventual wholeness to my heart.

Unconditional Love

While I didn’t expect or want friends to condone what I’d done, I was not able to take in corrective words at rope-1469244_640that time. I was in shock. I was grieved beyond words. I could barely get through the days—going to work, cooking meals, being me. Those who were able to reassure me of their unconditional love were like healing balm to my raw heart. One woman said, “I don’t care what you did, I love you anyway.” Another stood in church beside me and read a verse of God’s redemption with a strong, firm voice. A man I barely knew wrote me a letter telling of the struggles in his own marriage and sending encouraging words filled with love. I’ll never forget those who acknowledged that I’d fallen, but loved me until the day I could stand again.

The Gift of Time

Because we were in positions of leadership, everyone involved went through painful transitions. We lost our leadership positions. We eventually lost our church body. We were like lepers calling out “unclean.” Friends disappeared like a mist. A teacher friend once said, “Nobody loves you when you have head lice.” It was like that. Those who were willing to spend time with me, talk with me, listen and pray—they were gold.

Honesty Concerning Consequences

When sin twists its way into our lives there are dreadful consequences. There is no reason girl-517555_640to minimize them. One friend said: “It will eventually be like a broken bone that’s healed. There will always be that knit-together place,  that scar.” And he was right. The consequences were great. Innocent people were hurt. The ripples of the events traveled out to family members, friends and beyond. We lost people we loved. I had to face dark places in my own being that I’d ignored to my own hurt. To be honest, years and years have passed, but there are still awkward meetings with friends from those days—a wedding where we run into them, a funeral we don’t attend because we would run into them. It’s a sad fact that sin destroys. But…

Moving On

Praise God He sent Jesus to die for the very sins I committed. It was a long time before I healed. It took encouraging words from a new pastor who helped me get “unstuck” from shame and guilt. He offered to pray with me, counsel with me—whatever it took to regain love-699480_640my true identity as a beloved daughter of the King.

There’s a time for mourning and then there’s a time for moving on. I returned to teaching and leading women in the church. My husband and I began a ministry to Christians in India. We rejoiced that our marriage not only survived but became stronger and healthier. We counted our blessings.

John preached the message: “Repent, the King is coming.” And He did. He came and died for your sins and mine. He came to restore and heal. Let’s join hands with Him to bring restoration and hope to His people.

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homegrown-family-fun-frontToday’s children are missing out on old-fashioned unstructured creative play. They seldom run and play outdoors. They don’t spend time building forts or making mud pies. Their primary choices involve computerized screentime. While computerized games and activities can be educational, they eat up the time that would otherwise be spent in active, kid-powered play—the work of childhood. Homegrown Family Fun: Unplugged offers hundreds of ways to encourage healthy play, both indoors and out. Find this helpful family resource at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Find Jan at www.janpierce.net.

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jan-109acrop1Jan Pierce is a Christian wife, mother of two, grandmother of four little boys and a retired school teacher. She draws on her life experiences to write both fiction and non-fiction. She is the author of Homegrown Readers and the newly-released Homegrown Family Fun: Unplugged. Both  available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Find Jan at www.janpierce.net.

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Walking In the Wilderness

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I hate being stretched, prodded, and poked. At least, emotionally. But I’m learning to view my struggles and frustrations differently—through the lens of grace. I’ve shared before, but our family has been called to a challenge, one that, at times, takes every ounce of our energy and endurance. One that often leaves us feeling uncertain and one that also brings every selfish and un-surrendered thought to the surface.

This morning, after a particularly trying day the day before, I opened my Bible to James 1:1-3. And was challenged. Inspired. And invited to participate with God in the growth He is initiating in me. 

Then I open my computer and begin reviewing today’s post, and received yet an extra dose of encouragement to stay all in. And to lean hard on Christ. My struggles are nothing like Julie went through, but maybe that’s what makes her post so encouraging–to see faith and strength in the extreme.

 

Don’t Despise the Wildnerness
by Julie Arduini

It was 2003. I lived in Upstate NY and the financial consequences from 9/11 hit our small city hard. The main corporation in town, Corning Inc., let go 20% of their workforce. At the time, their stock was worth less than a slice of pizza at the local shop. Most businesses in town were somehow connected to Corning, including my husband’s employer. His work dried up to the point that the employer left the business and told his employees to keep it baby-1178539_640running—without salary or benefits.

Our baby came into our lives that August and I thought for sure my new role as a full-time mom would be the needed turn. Not long after her birth my husband realized he had to get another job. Our health insurance alone was a huge amount per month plus a 20% co-pay. On paper, we never had the amount. In reality, God provided. Yet, something had to give.

Once my husband started working as a temp to help make ends meet, we received news that our daughter’s newborn tests were abnormal. After hearing all was fine, we later learned the office made a mistake and our daughter was not fine. They sat me down and told me that because she lost 8 weeks of needed medicine, we were to prepare our child for mental retardation.

The hits became relentless. Our daughter got sick before Thanksgiving. Although we were changing doctors, we still hadn’t found one, so we went back. He prescribed a medicine with codeine, something I questioned for a three-month baby. He assured me he’d prescribed this for years.

Our daughter nearly died on Thanksgiving Eve.medic-563425_640

As she recovered, we learned my dad had lung cancer. I refused to believe it. He looked so good. They didn’t want anyone to know for fear he’d be treated differently. As Hannah battled RSV and pneumonia and my husband learned his second job was ending and that a company five hours away wanted to hire him—my dad wasn’t getting better. Three weeks after my husband moved to his new job knowing no one in an apartment the company found for him, my dad passed away.

I was grieving while taking care of two small ones, including a chronically sick baby. My mom was beside herself losing her husband and her daughter’s family. Once I sold the house and reunited with my husband, I remember sitting in Ohio, shell-shocked.

I felt completely abandoned by God.

It was in Ohio I found mentors and Bible studies that helped me. One day I was reading Beth Moore and she mentioned Hosea 2:14: therefore-i-am-now-going-to-allure-her-i-will-lead-her-into-the-wilderness-and-speak-tenderly-to-her-hosea-2-14-niv

That verse made this season almost feel like a gift.

A blessing.

As the grief subsided, I realized there were lessons I learned in the wilderness I never could have grasped in the clearing. I was introduced to opportunities that I never imagined I could have been prepared for. Those excruciating times were when God drew me close and taught me things. Showed me secrets and strategies. Most of all, loved me in an intimate way I’d never known.

The wilderness is scary and no one would voluntarily sign up for it. However, I don’t resist it anymore. I know a lot of fruit comes out of the wilderness. I wouldn’t be writing without those times. I hope my story encourages you. Don’t be afraid of your Hosea 2:14 wilderness.

***

“You need to leave me alone. It’s the least you can do.”

entangled2_editedCarla Rowling has been given her dream of attending cosmetology school. The gift is so generous she feels unworthy because of choices she made as a teen. The pressure mounts as Carla juggles school, is a single mom, helps her best friend Jenna plan her wedding, spends time with boyfriend Will Marshall, and deals with the fact that her son’s father is back in their lives.

Will Marshall is the one Speculator Falls resident everyone can count on. His truck deliveries are reliable. He’s the first to help friends like Ben Regan with boat work or be a card partner with Bart Davis. Will’s ready to settle down with Carla, loving her is natural. He’s bonded with her son, Noah. But when Carla starts cosmetology school, she puts emotional distance between her and Will.

Can Carla release her past and create a future full of highlights, or, will she burn her options worse than a bad perm?

Buy Entangled on Amazon.

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profileJulie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of the  re-release, ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as the sequel, ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past. She also shared her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at http://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities at JULIE ARDUINI: SURRENDER ISSUES AND CHOCOLATE and the weekly e mail. SUNDAY’S SURRENDER AND CHOCOLATE.

Connect with Julie on her websiteFacebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

 

 

4 Relationships God Wants Us to Cultivate: Part Two

As I mentioned yesterday, relationships are hard. Tanya wrote about two relationships God wanted us to cultivate–our relationship with Him, and our relationship with our spouse–and how we can do that. But there are two more relationships we must nurture: our relationship with…well, read on to see what Tanya says.

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4 Relationships God Wants Us to Cultivate: Part Two 
By Tanya Eavenson

Yesterday, I wrote about cultivating our relationships with God and with our spouses here. Today, there are two more relationships God calls us to cultivate.

3) Cultivate your relationships within the church.

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One way you can cultivate relationships within the church is through regular attendance and getting plugged in.

  • There are many areas in your church that need helpers, like teaching a Sunday school class, helping out in the nursery, designing a church website, answering phones, or even being a part of the clean-up crew after events. You’ll never know the needs a church has until you ask.
  • Be active. Have you ever considered joining a women’s ministry? Do you participate in a Bible study? Attend conferences that encourage and refresh your soul? As Hebrews 10:24-25 says above, we gather together to encourage one another. So be active.
  • Pray for the staff and ministries. One of the most crucial and most powerful acts of love a church can offer is prayer for their church staff, ministries within the church, and those who serve in those ministries.
  • Reach out to others. Whether it’s a card, text, or phone call, reach out to others for their birthday, bereavement, thinking of you, or any occasion. It means a lot to know someone cares and is lifting you up in prayer.

4) Cultivate your relationships with those who don’t know Jesus Christ.

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Did you know that if you claim to be a Christian, you’re a testimony of God? It may or may not surprise you, but people are observing us. How we handle heartaches and difficulties, the way we love our spouses, how we talk, how we treat others, and even our joys, accomplishments, and blessings represent who God is. Not that we must worry about being perfect. We all make mistakes. The Lord knows we aren’t perfect, but while we strive to follow Him in this imperfect world, there are several things we can do to reach the lost.

  • Pray for God to give you opportunities to share the Gospel with someone as you go along your day. Ask Him to give you boldness to proclaim the joy of God’s word.
  • Give forgiveness. Forgiveness is what sets Christianity apart from other faiths. If someone has offended you, treat them kindly, with love, regardless of how they’ve mistreated you. We truly don’t know what others are going through. Perhaps what they need to hear is they aren’t alone and there is One who will be with them through it all.
  • Share your testimony of what God has done in your life. It doesn’t have to sound professional: just honest. Sometimes our testimonies can bless others and be an encouragement to those who now walk where we’ve walked.
  • Show love to the lost. The Bible also clearly states in James 2:15-16, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”

The Lord has called us to share who He is with the world, and this often requires tangible actions. He calls us to go and love others by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for widows and orphans, visiting those who are sick and those in prison. Find a need within your community, your neighborhood or in another country and fill that need. How? It’s up to you. Contact your local church to see what ministries they offer, but most importantly, tell people about Jesus. It could be something as simple as passing out a Bible to a co-worker or to a stranger at the mall that leads people to Jesus and eternal life.

I’ve listed several practical ways to grow your relationships with the Lord, your spouse, your church, and with the lost, but it takes action. Cultivating anything takes time, energy, and a desire for something to grow, including our relationships. So why not start today?

***

Restored_1400x2100 (1)Dr. Steven Moore is known nationally for saving lives. If only he could save his own. Unable to deal with his cancer prognosis, he retreats to a happier time in his past—to the woman who once stole his heart.

Four years after the death of her beloved husband, bookstore owner Elizabeth Roberts still struggles to sustain her faith and joy in the Lord as she raises her two sons. She strives to find a way through her family’s grief, never suspecting a man from her past might offer hope for her future.

But how can there be a future when he’s only come to kiss her and says good-bye?

Buy Links:
Amazon
iTunes
Barnes & Noble

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Tanya Eavenson enjoys spending time with her husband, and their three children. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book. Tanya is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Word Weavers International, and writes for Christ to the World Ministries. You can find her at her website http://www.tanyaeavenson.com/ on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google, or on Amazon.

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Where I’ve been: Please join me over on Stitches Thru Time with Crystal L. Barnes today!

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Let’s talk about this:
 Over the past two days, Tanya has shared  four relationships God wants us to cultivate. Yesterday’s were God and our spouses, and today’s were the church and those who don’t know Christ. How do you cultivate your relationship with the church? What about those in your community? What keeps you from tending these relationships? What motivates you to seek these relationships out? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another!

To What Lengths Would You Go

This Sunday our pastor talked about the Creator of the universe coming to earth in the form of a man. We’ve all heard that story, and likely we’ll hear it numerous more times before the holiday season is through. Perhaps we’ve heard it so many times, it no longer impacts us…but let me attempt to bring it back to the heart level.

About two months ago I spoke at a local women’s shelter. I was studying the life of Joseph (as I still am), hence, that was what my message was about. Joseph was a remarkable man who served God wherever he went. As a slave, he served. As a prisoner, he served, and in each instance, his focus was on others. I don’t want to travel down too many rabbit trails here, but in times and places where I would have been consumed with bitterness and self-pity, Joseph looked upon the needs of others. He became a steady beacon of light in some very dark places–an Egyptian dungeon being one of them.

My question to these ladies at the shelter, some of whom were believers and some who were not, was, “What if God has placed you here, right now, to touch someone with His love?”

Many heads nodded and a few eyes grew moist. They understood that I had no business, no right, to speak into the lives of their peers. Sure, I could tell them the love of Jesus, but coming from my nicely furnished home stocked with more food than we could want, it wouldn’t cement. Not like it would coming from one of them who lived a life of poverty day in and day out. Someone who understood the pain of losing everything they had and the fear of not knowing where you and your children would lay their heads that night.

That night, I left with one burning question–to what extent would I go to reach the lost? If God asked me to give up everything, to live among these ladies as a beacon of light, would I? Would you?

We frequently talk about God’s pursuing love for the sinner, and recite again and again the parable of the one lost sheep that wandered from the 99, but has this just become a story? A nice parable that brings us comfort? How seriously do we take the message–that one is worth it all?

To what extent would you go to reach one lost soul?

And to what extent did God go to to reach us?

When I think of what God left in heaven, to come to earth as a helpless babe born to lowly peasants, it is similar to a wealthy businessman sleeping upon the streets of Los Angeles to reach out to that one alcoholic.

To what extent did God go to to reach us? He gave up everything.

Now the real question is, how will you show Him your gratitude this holiday season?

(And fyi, this does not count towards the top three of 2010. grin. But  you can comment, tweet or share it anyway.)